Richie Havens – Stonehenge (1970)

Richie Havens
Released 1970, Stormy Forest

    Open Your Eyes     2:48
Minstrel     3:28
It Could Be The First Day     2:15
Ring Around The Moon     2:05
Baby Blue     4:50
There’s A Hole In The Future     1:59
I Started A Joke     2:51
Prayer     2:54
Tiny Little Blues     1:57
Shouldn’t All The World Be Dancing     7:58

    Richie Havens – guitar, autoharp, sitar, koto, vocals
Warren Bernhardt – organ
Daniel Ben Zebulon – drums, conga
Monte Dunn – guitar
Donny Gerrard – bass
Ken Lauber – piano
Bill Lavorgna – drums
Eric Oxendine – bass
Bill Shepherd Singers – string arrangements
Paul “Dino” Williams – guitar

“To all the temples built by man of stone and other transient material: I wish to live to see them all crumble into truth and piles of light!
    And to the temple where divinity resides, even with all your newcomers: How quiet!
    To divinity: (the socio-physio-spiritus-harmonious-concludus) It is a pleasure to know you!

     And least and last, to the body, the substance, the hull, the distinguished main portion, the vessel of molecular pilots and passengers, and its power receiving, transmitting, perceiving, transcending equipment: The truth temple, I’ve seen your face, the earth and its inhabitants, a magnanimous collection.  Concentrate on your heartbeats, regulate your breathing even so that flowers may live.
 – Richard P. Havens “

On Monday
April 22, Richie Havens passed away.  I
saw Richie play a few times in small clubs and was lucky enough to have talked with him briefly one such occasion.  He was always approachable and interested in
talking to his fans after a performance.
Here was this man who was a living legend of his generation, with an
instantly recognizable style and always-evocative musical presence, and he
seemed genuinely just grateful that people came to hear him sing.  In a way it seemed this fact was all that
mattered – that people were still listening.
   Note that I did not say “grateful that people still came to hear him sing” because
this had nothing to do with his age – he was well into his 60s the last time I saw him perform – or out
of some pop-singer’s vanity to feel relevant.
It mattered that people were still listening because he still believed
in the urgency of his message as much as he did when he started out.  His message
and his music had not changed much in a half century of recording and
performing, and he put them both across to us in a voice that never
wavered.  He had a wise voice, ageless
and now quite literally eternal.  You can listen to his singing on “Mixed Bag” (1967) and follow it with “Wishing Well” (2002) and be forgiven for thinking they were recorded around the same time.
     He will forever be associated with the opening scenes of the Woodstock film that captured him improvising the tune “Freedom” at the end of a nearly three-hour set, killing time for the rock bands to get their gear to the stage.  And he continued to represent the best utopian qualities of that historic moment soon to be overshadowed by the excesses of the era.  As most of his contemporaries succumbed to various combinations of self-destruction, greed, madness or mediocrity, he continued waging peace for the rest of his career.  He became the most refreshing of anachronisms.  A person who believed – really believed – that music could change the world one person at a time.  A figure who seemed incapable of cynicism in his music or his life.  Hell, he could even make promotional work for the cotton industry sound noble.
You can’t go wrong with any of Richie’s first ten or so albums, and Stonehenge is lodged right in between two of my favorites – the double album “1983” and “Alarm Clock.”  The latter LP was his highest charting success, largely on the heals of an inspired version of ‘Hear Comes The Sun.’  While Richie was a fantastic songwriter he sort of became known for his covers of other peoples’ hits and giving them his personal stamp.  Usually songs associated with sixties counterculture folk/rock icons like Donovan, The Beatles, and Dylan.  Here he tackles “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue,” a song so good it is probably impossible to do a bad version of it, and the Bee Gee’s “I Started A Joke,” which also happens to be one of my favorite tunes (as I mentioned when blogging about Ronnie Von’s Portuguese adaptation of it over here).  The album opens with a tune by gospel artist Leon Lumkins, “Open Our Eyes,” also recorded by Funkadelic and which would  become the title track of an Earth, Wind and Fire album a few years later.  Havens version is better than both and more moving, as well as truer to the original.  It’s a lovely prayer to begin a recording.
    I won’t give a song-by-song account because if you have never sat down and listened to it then you should just enjoy your own subjective impressions.  “Minstrel From Gaul” is a recognized classic and a song he never stopped playing live.  He shifts from the tender “It Could Be The First Day” to the angular “Ring Around The Moon” seamlessly.  The song “Prayer” brings us back to gospel territory and reminds us of Richie’s roots singing in vocal groups and doo-wop.  It’s a Havens composition and the last one on the album to feature real vocals; it also seems that Richie may have overdubbed all the harmonies himself, if the album jacket credits are trustworthy. The instrumentation throughout the LP is changed up constantly, presenting new textures, and the arrangements are all excellent.  Also, unlike his first couple of LPs – and I mention this only because I was just listening to them yesterday and today – this one was recorded and mixed really well, which helps things a lot.  The record kind of tapers off a little towards the end with the rather disposable instrumental “Tiny Little Blues” (dobro fans will be pleased by an unexpected appearance from David Bromberg) followed immediately by an eight-minute freakout jam (lyricless but with some spoken word) that closes the proceedings.  It is tempting to think they needed to fill ten more minutes and had no more songs left, but Havens often managed to insert something experimental or vaguely improvisatory into his early records.  And this intense finale, “Shouldn’t All The World Be Dancing” is shot through with Havens ecological, spiritual, and anti-war sentiments.  It is a surprisingly dissonant way to close a record, perhaps the musical rendering of his call in the liner notes to see “all the temples built by man… crumble into truth and piles of light.”  Richie Havens didn’t live to see that vision come to fruition here on Spaceship Earth.  But he did leave us a huge body of work through his searching.
Listen to a little piece of it today.
I could post a YouTube clip to something off this album but why not share the original recording of that Lumkins tune:

 photo richiemoog_zpsf8a4c962.jpg

Karma – Karma (1972) {O Terço, Arthur Verocai)

Released originally on RCA-Victor 1972 (103.0046)
This reissue Selo Cultural 2010

01. Do Zero Adiante
02. Blusa de Linho
03. Você Pode Ir Além
04. Epílogo
05. Tributo ao Sorriso
06. O Jogo
07. Omissão
08. Venha Pisar na Grama
09. Transe Uma
10. Cara e Coroa Continue reading

Gonzaguinha – Luiz Gonzaga Jr.. (1974)


“Luiz Gonzaga Jr.”
Released 1974

01 É preciso
02 Piada infeliz
03 Meu coração é um pandeiro
04 Uma família qualquer
05 Pois é, seu Zé
06 Rabisco n’areia
07 Assum preto
08 Amanhã ou depois
09 Galope
10 Desesperadamente

Sidney Matos – acoustic and electric guitars, organ, electric piano, bass
Arnaldo Luis – bass, acoustic guitar
João Cortez – drums, percussion
Gonzaga Jr. – acoustic guitar, percussion, vocals

Produced by Milton Miranda
Musical direction / arrangements – Maestro Gaya
Production assistant: Renato Corrêa
Technical director – Z.J. Merky
Recording technician – Toninho / Nivaldo
Remix engineer – Nivaldo Duarte


For the last few days I have been thinking of Egypt, how distant it all seems, and how the people around me seem largely unconscious, somnambulantly disinterested of the historical importance of what is going on there, and how it effects all of us. I’m sure I could have chosen to upload any number of more ‘appropriate’ albums but I have been listening to this one a lot lately and it was sitting here waiting for an upload.

Luiz Gonzaga Jr., o “Gonzaguinha”, did not make music for throwing a good party. He could have made a career just off the simple fact that he was the son of the King of Baião, Luiz Gonzaga, and been a mediocre forró singer and still sold tons of albums just by that association. Instead, he chose a different path, that of a deeply-poetic composer more in the mold of the singer-songwriter archetype that became more common in the 1970s seemingly everywhere in the world, but in Brazil often had a directly proportional relationship to the political repression happening in the country. By the early 70s, the ‘movimento estudantil’ was in tatters, the UNE (the universities’ student unions) officially dissolved by the military dicatorship, their meetings resulting in persecution, harassment, disappearances. As the 60s came to a close, the rather heavy-handed and preachy protest music of “música engajada” from the likes of Geraldo Vandre became more a thing of the past, as the optimism that protest music could change the situation and mobilize people faded, and Tropicália’s confrontational iconoclasm challenged its musical and ontological premises. The increased censorship after ‘Institutional Act 5″ of 1968 shut down the Brazilian Congress and gave absolute power to the military resulted in a change of tactics for the socially-conscious activist-oriented songwriter. The usual example is Chico Buarque, who is famous for having his material censored during this period and would perfect the use of the quotidian metaphor as a vehicle for expressions of social unrest, creating more elusive, complex works that were consequently more difficult to challenge by the censorship boards.

But, obviously, there were other wordsmiths besides Chico that were adepts at this. Gonzaguinha is part of a post-68 generation of singer-songwriters that would also include Belchior and Fagner. These latter two were both from the northeastern state of Ceará; Gonzaguinha was born in Rio, but his father was basically a walking-talking-singing symbol of northeastern-ness, and born in Pernambuco. I always think of all three of them together for some reason, but Gonzaguinha’s musical output precedes the other two slightly. They all their own styles of writing and performance, but shared a certain atmospheric vibe and themes in their early music.

This album is pretty much all down-beat, heavy, somber material. The album opens with the mind-blowing song “É preciso” which has become probably my favorite composition of his. Lyrically framing a scenario of (under-valued) domestic labor of a mother and the child by her side who accompanies her at home, in the streets, in the open street markets, the words seem to recount the memories of the singer/narrator of his own growing up and a remembered or imagined dialog with his mother as he reflects on his life. The couplet that is repeated and slightly rephrased throughout the song, “Labutar é preciso; lutar é preciso” (hard work/labor is necessary; to struggle is necessary) is sung first as wisdom imparted from mother to son while she works at washing laundry. Later it is sung back from son to mother as the son struggles to get by on his own as a young man. The parallels with the political oppression, the crushing of the labor and student movements, the clandestine groups working to overthrow or at least undermine the military dictatorship … All of this runs like a subterranean undercurrent beneath the words sung in the plaintive voice of Luiz that grows more urgent and pleading as the song moves along.

The fastest tempo on the album is the song ‘Galope’ which is still manages to be dissonant and dark. All of the songs are originals except “Assum Preto” which is from Gonzagão (his dad) and Humberto Teixeira, and which Gonzaguinha makes almost unrecognizable from its original version, slowing it down and somewhat pulling it apart. The instrumentation and performances are all wonderful, impeccable musicianship that shines precisely because the musicians know when to hold back and let the song carry *them*, embellishing the music with occasional twists of avant garde post-psychedelic dissonance. The album is consistently great – “Piada infeliz”, “Meu coração é um pandeiro”, “Uma família qualquer”, “Desesperadamente” – there is cinematic majesty and power in these songs, the key to which is their understatement and lack of histrionics.

So give this record a listen. While pockets of resistance in the Arab world try and reclaim their rights after decades of oligarchical tyranny and dictatorships sponsored by powerful allies in the United States and the European community, remember that these struggles have taken place elsewhere and will continue to take place until every last human is free from repression and political violence. Until that unlikely utopia comes about, “LUTAR É PRECISO.”

in 320 kbs em pé tré


the secret magickal code word is in the commentaries